News Short-list for 2014 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize revealed
A short-list of three nominees for the 2014 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize has been revealed in Prague. The award will go to either the B'Tselem Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in Israel, the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta or Anar Mammadli, a human rights activist from Azerbaijan whose work focuses on election monitoring. The winner of the second edition of the award will be revealed on September 29. It is presented by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Charter 77 Foundation and the Václav Havel Library.
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The New Zealand authorities say they have found the body of a Czech man who was killed on a hiking track in a remote mountainous area on the country’s South Island. His partner Pavlina Pížová who was there with him managed to survive, spending two nights with the dead body before leaving her mate to seek help and finding shelter at a hut at Lake Mackenzie where she spent a month, stranded by bad weather, waiting to be rescued. The couple got lost in extreme winter weather conditions and had failed to inform anyone of their plans.
Former senior Communists such as one-time party general secretary Milouš Jakeš and prime minister Lubomír Štrougal are among 67 Czechs and Slovaks who have been charged over the deaths of five German citizens who were killed trying to cross the Iron Curtain from Czechoslovakia to the West, the ctk news agency reported. Charges were pressed by the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, a group that pushes for the punishment of perpetrators of communist-era crimes. According to the organization’s director Neela Winkelmann, it had decided to seek justice in Germany since only a few former rank-and file border guards had been convicted of killing people on the country’s borders in the Czech Republic. According to German lawyer Konrad Manz the said crimes were crimes against humanity that are not bound by a statute of limitations.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democratic Party has slammed his strongest coalition partner ANO for refusing to back the Social Democrats proposal to set a firm age ceiling on retirement in the Czech Republic. The proposal would allow both men and women to retire upon reaching the age of 65. ANO leader, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has refused to back the proposal, describing it as a populist move ahead of the autumn regional and Senate elections. Mr. Sobotka said Babiš was betraying his election promises to voters, the coalition agreement and his own party’s election program. A debate on the issue is expected to continue with an alternative ceiling set at 67 years of age.
Chancellor Merkel could not realistically have expected to change the Czech Republic’s stand on the issue of migration, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in reaction to the coverage of Thursday’s visit by the German media. The German papers reported that Chancellor Merkel had failed to win over the Czechs on the issue of migration. The Czech prime minister, who on Thursday reiterated his government’s stand that a permanent redistribution mechanism for migrants was totally unacceptable, said the German head of government was familiar not only with the Czech Republic’s stand on the issue, but with that of the Visegrad Four states who are united in their opposition to mandatory migrant quotas. Sobotka said the goal of the visit was not to persuade the country to change its policy on migration, but to push ahead with a debate on the future of the EU after Brexit and discuss a number of bilateral projects.
Meteorologists have issued a heat warning for the coming weekend when temperatures are expected to reach 35 degrees Celsius in places. The coming days are expected to be the longest hot stretch in the course of the entire summer with temps between 33 and 35 degrees. The heatwave should break on Monday. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the coming weekend is the last ahead of the new school year and thousands of people will be on the road, returning home from their holidays.
The Bohnice psychiatric Hospital did not commit an error in judgment when it released a patient who subsequently attacked and killed a stranger in a Prague shopping centre, Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek told journalists in Prague, citing the outcome of an investigation by a commission of experts. The commission concluded that the staff responsible did not break the law, violate the hospital’s internal regulations, or disregard the recommendations of the Czech Association of Psychiatrists. The commission said the police was to blame for not relaying vital information relating to the case. The hospital was allegedly not informed that the said patient had attempted to strangle another woman in a coffee house a fortnight before she committed the murder. She was merely hospitalized for aggressive behavior.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is in Prague within her post Brexit
European tour, on Thursday met with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka
to debate the migrant crisis, the future of the EU after Brexit, and
bilateral cooperation in the field of science and research. On the divisive
issue of migration, the chancellor said there were principal issues on
which the two sides were in agreement, such as the need to enforce the
protection of the EU’s outer borders and the need to address the primary
cause of the migrant crisis. Prague remains opposed to the concept of
mandatory quotas, but Prime Minister Sobotka stressed that the existing
differences did not mean that the two sides were not prepared to
communicate and address them.
On another hot international issue, the German chancellor and Czech Prime minister rejected calls for an end to the EU sanctions against Russia, advocated among others by Czech President Milos Zeman. Chancellor Merkel said the lifting of sanctions could only come with progress in fulfilling the Minsk agreement, which was clearly not happening. Prime Minister Sobotka said the conditions under which the sanctions could be modified or lifted had been made clear from the outset and until they had been met there was no point in debating the issue.
The German Chancellor later met with President Milos Zeman, a fierce opponent of migration, who strongly rejected the idea of mandatory quotas, arguing that since it was Germany which had issued an open invitation to millions of migrants the country should take responsibility for them and not foist them on others.
At the close of her visit the chancellor attended a dinner given in her honour at Prague’s Lichtenstein Palace.
Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Prague was marked by a security incident in which an unknown driver tried to force his way into the motorcade carrying the German delegation, Czech Radio reported. A spokesman for the police presidium confirmed the incident, but said that due to fast action on the part of the police the chancellor’s safety was not threatened and the man was arrested before he could do any harm.
The German Chancellor’s visit to Prague is marked by street protests. Around two hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Office of the Government to watch her arrive on Thursday, blowing whistles and holding up slogans reading “Away with Merkel, Away with Islam” or “Merkel is killing Europe”. Some of the protesters exchanged verbal insults with the dozen or so Merkel supporters who also arrived on the scene. Police are out in force to maintain order. The chancellor, who was an extremely popular politician in Prague ahead of the migrant crisis, was led in through a back door so as to avoid coming into direct contact with the crowd.
The Senate has come out in support of a petition by South Bohemian citizens who would like to see Parliament give legislative approval to interventions in the Šumava National Park which would improve water retention in the region. The locals claim Šumava forests are drying out as a result of increasing periods of drought and the present non-intervention policy in parts of the nature reserve is doing immense harm to the countryside. An amendment to the law on Nature protection, which deals with this issue, is currently being debated in the lower house. The Environment Ministry is pushing for close to half of the Šumava National Park to be declared a “non-intervention” zone.